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“I’ve never seen a business fail that delights its customers.”

Obviously, a marketing plan must be in alignment with the customers it hopes to attract.  But because marketing is equal parts skill and artform, achieving that alignment can be deceptively difficult.  What do our customers really want?  What are they really willing to pay for it?  How do they really want us to communicate with them?  And so it is with customer service.  How much customer service do our customers really expect from us?  If we over serve them, they may believe that we’re charging too much for services that they neither need nor want.  If we under serve them, they will be disappointed and will never be back as a returning customer.  So how do we solve this over serve/under serve dilemma?  For more on this, please continue reading below

“I’ve never seen a business fail that delights its customers.”  ~ Warren Buffet    

As a point of clarification, Buffet says he isn’t talking about merely satisfying customer expectations . . . he wants to go beyond “satisfied” to “delighted.”  He also said, “People will forget the price they paid, but they’ll never forget the experience they had.”  Warren apparently believes that if you’re going to miss, miss high.  Since he has had a bit of success in the business world, his beliefs ought to count for something.

Legendary retailer Marshall Fields chimed in saying, “Customers, when given a choice of where they spend their money, will invariably go back to that place where they have been made to feel special.”

Warren Buffet wants us to delight our customers and to give them an unforgettable experience.  Marshall Fields wants us to make them feel special.  So apparently there’s more to this than simply focusing on what we offer as customer service.  We need to think carefully about how we deliver that service and how that service makes people feel.

If you’re thinking that your company’s contribution to customer service is price . . . that is, making your customers “feel” great only by offering them a lower price than any of your competitors . . . you might want to rethink that strategy.  Conventional wisdom says that the euphoria coming from getting “a real steal” has a limited shelf life. “The bitter taste of poor customer service lingers long after the sweet taste of low price has faded.”     ~ Anon

If you’re wondering whether it makes sense to make a big deal out of customer service, consider this:

  • “After one negative experience, 51% of customers will never do business with that company again.”       ~
  • “Feeling unappreciated is the #1 reason customers switch from (one company to another).”       ~
  • It is anywhere from 5 to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one.”        ~ Harvard Business Review
  • 7 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they’ll spend more money to do business with a company that delivers great service.”      ~ American Express

It’s important to note that customer service needs to be viewed in the context of the niche you’re in within your industry.  Motel 6 and Ritz-Carlton Hotels are both in the hospitality industry, but in vastly different parts of it.  Motel 6 should still seek to “delight” its guests, but that should be compared to other national chain “budget” motels, not to Ritz-Carlton.

Tony Hsieh, founder and CEO of online retailer Zappos,has said, “We asked ourselves what we wanted this company to stand for. We didn’t want to just sell shoes. I wasn’t even into shoes – but I was passionate about customer service.”  He also said, “Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.”

Or consider this comment from best-selling author and syndicated columnist Harvey Mackay. “Southwest Airlines is successful because the company understands it’s a customer service company. It also happens to be an airline.

So Zappos is a customer service company that happens to be an online retailer, and Southwest Airlines is a customer service company that happens to be an airline.  And therein lies a lesson for all of us.  You may be a retailer, a wholesaler, a distributor, a manufacturer, accountant, attorney, butcher, baker, or candlestick maker . . . it doesn’t matter.  First and foremost, all of us are in the customer service business.

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